The Washington Post has a comprehensive blog post about the history and the future of the Common Core State Standards. In it, Stan Karp, who taught English and journalism in Paterson, N.J., for 30 years, explains “why the problems surrounding the implementation of the Common Core are less about the substance of the standards and more about the context in which they were introduced.” Karp is also editor of Rethinking Schools magazine, where his article originally appeared.
Funding is far from the only concern, but it is a threshold credibility issue. If you’re proposing a dramatic increase in outcomes and performance to reach social and academic goals that have never been reached before, and your primary investments are standards and tests that serve mostly to document how far you are from reaching those goals, you either don’t have a very good plan or you’re planning something else. The Common Core, like NCLB before it, is failing the funding credibility test before it’s even out of the gate.
Last winter, the Rethinking Schools editorial board held a discussion about the Common Core; we were trying to decide how to address this latest trend in the all-too-trendy world of education reform. Rethinking Schools has always been skeptical of standards imposed from above. Too many standards projects have been efforts to move decisions about teaching and learning away from educators and schools, and put them in the hands of distant bureaucracies and politicians. Standards have often codified sanitized versions of history, politics, and culture that reinforce official myths while leaving out the voices and concerns of our students and communities. Whatever potentially positive role standards might play in truly collaborative conversations about what schools should teach and children should learn has repeatedly been undermined by bad process, suspect political agendas, and commercial interests.
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he way the standards are being rushed into classrooms across the country is further undercutting their credibility. These standards have never been fully implemented in real schools anywhere. They’re more or less abstract descriptions of academic abilities organized into sequences by people who have never taught at all or who have not taught this particular set of standards. To have any impact, the standards must be translated into curriculum, instructional plans, classroom materials, and valid assessments. A reasonable approach to implementing new standards would include a few multi-year pilot programs that provided time, resources, opportunities for collaboration, and transparent evaluation plans.
Instead we’re getting an overhyped all-state implementation drive that seems more like a marketing campaign than an educational plan. And I use the word marketing advisedly, because another defining characteristic of the Common Core project is rampant profiteering.
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